The cabinet voted today to accept the contract and fund the acquisition through the Florida Forever program
Jacksonville, Fla., July 25, 2019 – North Florida Land Trust is pleased to announce the Florida Cabinet has approved the contract to purchase Fish Island in St. Augustine with funds from the Florida Forever program. The Cabinet met today and voted to approve the deal negotiated by NFLT in partnership with the State of Florida. The owners had agreed to sell the property for a price of $6.5 million, but the contract was contingent on the state funding approval.
Noah Valenstein, Secretary of Environmental Protection, presented the project to the Cabinet who then heard from Vice Mayor of the City of St. Augustine Leanna Freeman and NFLT President Jim McCarthy. Freeman spent approximately 14 years working to protect Fish Island and her presence at the Cabinet meeting was in solidarity with the St. Augustine community’s support.
“We are so pleased that the Cabinet has agreed to move forward to purchase this property with Florida Forever funds and even more pleased that Fish Island will be preserved,” said McCarthy. “We are honored to have Vice Mayor Freeman by our side and want to also thank Senator Rob Bradley, who had planned to be there, but a change in meeting time led to a scheduling conflict. Without his leadership to fund Florida Forever in 2018, this project would not have been possible. It was also great to partner with the Division of State Lands at DEP on this significant acquisition.”
Fish Island is a 57-acre property located on the Intracoastal waterway immediately adjacent to the 312 bridge onto Anastasia Island. Jessie Fish built his home on the land in the 1700s. It was the first orange grove in Florida and gave birth to the citrus industry. At one time, there were approximately 3,000 orange trees on the island and the citrus was exported to England and Spain.
McCarthy said, “We became involved with the negotiation to preserve Fish Island because it fits all three of the points of our mission; to protect the natural resources, historic places and working lands like farms and ranches. We work consistently with our partner, the Division of State Lands, to identify and preserve lands within our state. We were honored to be a part of this important preservation project.”
The City of St. Augustine will manage the property which is a healthy maritime hammock forest. Preservation will help avoid water quality impacts to the Matanzas River and will also preserve the historic property which is an integral part of St. Augustine’s history.
NFLT is still looking for contributions to help with offsetting the hard cost of the preservation of the property and the hours of staff time expended. Donations can be made at https://www.nflt.org/preservefishisland/.
About North Florida Land Trust
North Florida Land Trust is a nonprofit organization that champions environmental protection in north Florida. NFLT was founded in 1999 and has protected thousands of acres of environmentally significant land including property at Big Talbot Island, Ortega River, Guana River, Little Orange Creek, Keystone Heights and along the St. Mary’s River and other valued natural areas predominantly in Northeast Florida. NFLT is funded largely by private and corporate contributions and works closely with private landowners and public agencies at all levels of government, not-for-profit partners, and foundations. For more information, visit nflt.org.